Monday, 30 March 2009

The Creme Fraiche Challenge - Recipe No 1

When discussing my blog with a friend she requested some recipes using creme fraiche as she often ends up with some leftover when cooking.  I was more than willing to take up the challenge as, when cooking for two, I rarely find a recipe that uses a whole pot and more often than not end up throwing the rest away.

So, the first recipe I was going to cook as part of this challenge was supposed to be a lemon-based pasta dish.  However, the lemon I was relying on to make this had, to put it mildly, seen better days (ok, it was green and furry).  Luckily I already had the necessary ingredients for an alternative dish.

Pasta with Rich Mushroom Sauce
(adapted from Waitrose Magazine)

Serves 4

500g pasta (I like rigatoni for this one)

1 onion, chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
400g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
2 tbsp sherry
200ml creme fraiche
parmesan shavings

1) Cook the pasta in boiling water

2) Fry the onion in the olive oil then add the mushrooms and fry for 2-3 minutes.

3) Add the sherry and simmer for a minute before adding the creme fraiche and warming through.

4) Mix with the cooked pasta and top with parmesan shavings

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Two lovely oaty recipes

I often find that a bowl of regular cereal isn't quite enough to see me through until lunchtime so I've been on the lookout for some healthy snacks that will keep me away from the chocolate. I came across this first recipe when flicking through Nigella Express and it sounded like just the thing.

Breakfast Bars
(adapted from Nigella Express by Nigella Lawson)

1 x 397g can condensed milk
250g rolled oats
75g shredded coconut
100g dried cranberries
125g mixed seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, sesame)
125g natural unsalted peanuts

1) Preheat the oven to 130c and grease a 23 x 33 x 4cm baking tin.

2) Warm the condensed milk in a pan

3) Mix the dry ingredients together, add the warmed condensed milk and mix

4) Spread the mixture into the tin and even the surface.

5) Bake for 1 hour and remove from the oven. Leave for 15 minutes before cutting into squares.

These get a big thumbs up from me. They taste great, are easy to make and are pretty healthy too.

While I had the oats out I remembered a favourite recipe from Jamie Oliver. When the weather starts to brighten up and hot porridge becomes less appealing I like to make this for breakfast instead.

(adapted from The Return of the Naked Chef by Jamie Oliver)

8 large handfuls of porridge oats
2 large handfuls of ground bran
1 handful of chopped dried apricots
1 handful of chopped dried dates
1 handful of crumbled walnuts
1 handful of chopped hazlenuts, almonds or brazil nuts

This part can be made in advance and kept for ages. Mix together and store in an airtight container.

You can, of course, put pretty much whatever you want into this. My combination today included oats, bran, sunflower seeds, pumkpin seeds, linseeds, chopped prunes and chopped apricots.

The night before you need it put some of the above in a bowl (once made up this will keep for two or three days so you can put a few portions in), cover with milk and mix in 1/2 a grated apple per portion. Place in the fridge.

In the morning remove the bowl from the fridge. The mixture will have softened and thickened up so you might want to add a bit more milk. Serve with honey, yoghurt, chopped banana, strawberries, raspberries...whatever you fancy really.

Friday, 27 March 2009

In the interests of science.....

I've been sent the following recipe on two occasions now so I'm going to take that as a sign that I should give it a go.  The recipe in question is the 5 minute chocolate mug cake.  Now, the thought of being able to access homemade chocolate cake in 5 minutes is of course a Very Good Thing.  But is it really possible or is it just a cruel urban myth being spread around the internet to taunt us chocolate cake lovers.

5 Minute Chocolate Mug Cake
source unknown!

4 tablespoons plain flour
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons chocolate chips (optional, but recommended!)
A splash of vanilla extract
1 large coffee mug

1) Add the dry ingredients to the mug and mix well

2) Add the egg and mix again

3) Stir in the remaining ingredients (not easy in such a small space)

4) Put the mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes at 1000 watts (high).  The cake will rise over the top of the mug (mine did, but the cake was cooked enough by then to hold itself together rather than spread itself all over the microwave).  Allow to cool a little and tip out onto a plate.

Well, it was easy enough to put together.

But it is certainly the strangest-looking cake I've ever made!

I don't think I'll be entering it in any cake competitions!

And the taste?  

Hmmm, well sadly this is not the yummiest chocolate cake I've come across - it's certainly no chocolate fudge brownie!  To be fair I didn't use the chocolate chips as I didn't have any and I think they would have helped.  As would some ice cream, chocolate sauce....anything to disguise the cake really!  It has a strange springy spongey texture and a pretty bland flavour (you can tell that the usual butter has been replaced by oil).  So, for me, I'm afraid it's not really a winner.  

Having said all that though, I should point out that my 4 year old daughter thinks it's great, so hey, what do I know!?

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Last year's blackberries

Blackberry Crisp from Nigella Express by Nigella Lawson

I saw this recipe reviewed on another blog (Cooking The Books) and it was rated very highly so I thought I try it out with the blackberries I'd stashed away in the freezer last autumn.  It was very easy to put together and all the weighing and measuring can be done in advance (always a plus in my book).  The final result was very nice although maybe a little sweet, or possibly my blackberries weren't sharp enough.  I might use a bit less sugar next time or try mixing in different fruit as Nigella suggests.  All in all though it was a hit and a nice alternative to a crumble or cobbler.  I'll definitely make it again

Thursday, 19 March 2009

The Ultimate Spaghetti Carbonara (in my humble opinion)

Now there's carbonara and there's carbonara. The first type can be found in supermarket ready meals and the pots of fresh pasta sauce in the chiller cabinets. Then there's the second type. The real thing. The problem with the first type is that there is always just too much sauce. Done right your spaghetti should just be lightly coated with a mixture of eggs, parmesan and possibly a little bit of cream. And that's where Nigella Lawson steps in with her fabulous recipe for Spaghetti Carbonara in How to Eat. I know most Carbonara recipes include garlic and hardly any use wine but I still think this one is the best. This is a summary of Nigella's original recipe

Spaghetti Carbonara
From Nigella Lawson's How to Eat

200g spaghetti
100g pancetta, cubed
4 tablespoons parmesan
4 tablespoons vermouth or white wine
1 egg yolk
1 whole egg
4 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan
Pepper and nutmeg
Approx 20g/1 mounded tablespoon butter

1) Cook the spaghetti in a pan of boiling water.

2) Heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil and add the pancetta. Fry for about five minutes until beginning to crisp. Add the vermouth or wine and let it bubble away for about three minutes then remove from the heat

3) In a separate bowl mix together the eggs, parmesan, pepper and nutmeg.

4) When the pasta is cooked quickly put the bacon pan back on the heat and add the butter. Add the pasta to the pan and mix to cover it with oil. Take the pan off the heat. Pour the egg mixture into the pan and quickly mix together so the sauce lightly covers all the strands of pasta.

Serves 2 (Nigella suggests this serves two for lunch and one for dinner but I think you'd have to be extremely hungry to manage this all by yourself!).

I don't bother buying a whole piece of pancetta and chopping it up myself. Instead I buy the little packs of ready-cubed pancetta from the supermarket. Also, I tend to prefer Nigella's alternative suggestion to the above recipe. Instead of using one egg yolk and one whole egg I use two egg yolks and add two tablespoons of cream in place of the egg white. I think it gives the dish a nicer dish texture although, as Nigella advises in her book, this makes it less of a storecupboard supper.

I have a plan for the leftover egg whites which I will post about at a later date.

Saturday, 14 March 2009


More spring flowers!

I always like to try and use up bananas that have got a bit past their best so yesterday I made Banana Butterscotch Muffins from Nigella Express by Nigella Lawson which used up all of the three overripe bananas I had in the fruit bowl.  The recipe calls for butterscotch morsels but I haven't managed to find these yet so just used a bag of plain chocolate chips instead.  I think the dark chocolate balances out the banana really well but still intend try the recipe with the butterscotch pieces as and when I manage to find some. 

Friday, 13 March 2009

Spring! (..onions and more beansprouts).

I think these flowers prove that Spring is definitely here!  Not really food-related, I admit, but they looked so pretty this morning I couldn't resist.

Anyway, on to dinner.  In order to use up the bag of beansprouts I opened for the previous recipe I made Sweet & Sour Beef Noodles from Wagamama - Ways with Noodles, and very nice it was too.  I'm definitely in full-on stir fry mode at the moment - they're quick and healthy, what's not to like! 

This recipe calls for a handful of beansprouts, one or two spring onions and half a red pepper (although I found) a small one in the supermarket and used all of it. 

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Beansprouts & Spring Onions

The first recipe I'm going to post about on this blog is one I made two nights ago - Chicken Chow Mein from Chinese Food Made Easy by Ching-He Huang.  This is a really good recipe, super quick to make and pretty health to boot - ideal when you don't have much time in the evening.  It's great if you have some spare beansprouts (you need 150g - about half a bag) or spring onions (1 required).   I didn't take a photo of the finished result but will try to post pictures of future dishes I post about.  

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Day 1

So this is my first post on my first blog.  This blog is going to be all about cooking and recipes, particularly those annoying ones which result in leftovers that you have to find a use for.  More to follow!